"The Incense Road" is a collection of novellas by Tracy Higley that follows the trek of the magi as they leave their Parthian home and seek the newborn King of the Jews. At first they are a large group of traders, soldiers, and scholars, each with their own motivation for the journey.
In the first novella, "Star of Wonder," we meet Misha, son of the main character from Higley's previous book, The Queen's Handmaid. Misha is a first-level mage who is sure he can find shortcuts to get what he wants in life. He heads towards to the ancient country of Judea planning to steal a Jewish artifact called the Nehushtan for the gain of his own family and to keep it from the evil clutches of the sorcerer Zahir. Misha's best friend Reza, a soldier who is also possibly the rightful heir of the Persian throne, is leading the band of guards on who are accompanying the various sects of scholars on the trip. Another first-level mage, Kamillah, is of Egyptian heritage and has captured the interest of Misha, Reza, and Zahir as well. She is seeking freedom, truth, and a way to return home to Egypt.
Each of these main characters feels the pressure of the heavens. The star announcing the arrival of a World Savior calls to them in a way they've never felt before. They are aware of a spiritual battle over their journey but they don't know if the heavenly forces fight for them or against them. Misha and Zahir are focused on finding the Nehushtan, while Reza and his soldiers plot to bring Persia out from under Parthia's rule upon their return home.
Things become unpredictable when they reach Judea and each must decide where their loyalty lies. Through battle, imprisonment, and the continuous call of the star they will be forced to examine their motives and goals. Who will remain standing to lay their treasures at the feet of Jesus?
I enjoyed this story, especially the final novella "Royal Beauty." I would recommend reading The Queen's Handmaid before The Incense Road, as it gives rich backstory to the characters and setting. I teared up at the heart-responses of those who met the young Messiah, having their fears stilled and faith affirmed by the One True God's own small Son. This book does deal quite a bit with spiritual warfare so if that makes you uneasy you should probably pass on this one. Otherwise it is a fascinating look into what the magi might have faced on their holy quest.